How Computers Can Do Fieldwork For You: A Case Study
So, as a very mature and worldly individual—I am 20 years old after all—I am continually surprised by the lack of sophistication among the older generations—y’know, from 30 on up. They seem to be oblivious to the most rudimentary facets of everyday life, like Twitter, Reddit, and Fark. I mean, these people grew up on this planet—not like in Africa or something. Posers.
So, as part of my self-designed interdisciplinary degree in International Computational Business Communication Studlies (I love that my advisor didn’t catch that extra “l” until my junior year—too late to change it! FTW!), I’ve been taking 3rd-year graduate linguistics courses. Thanks to the flexible nature of my degree program, no prerequisites are required.
So, I’m taking “Field Methods” and trying to figure out how to get my computer to do my fieldwork for me. I started off thinking of a variant of a common internet meme:
- Get a computer to do your fieldwork for you.
So, as is commonly the case, step number 2 did not immediately present itself a priori, so I figured I’d work out what it was when I got there. Whatev.
So, I did some research on Wikipedia and Uncyclopedia and in some books I downloaded and figured all I had to do was use some cutting-edge military-grade machine-learning programs I found BitTorrents for. (Yay zero-day warez!) I configured my computer to look for something characteristic and distinctive in the language of the internet. I processed a tiny sample of about 147 terabytes of internet data I slurped off Google Groups and Facebook, doing automatic feature extraction using a simulated annealing-based component analysis, which I fed to several machine learning models, including a Kohonen map, a decision tree, and a neural net with inputs based on TF/IDF weights. It’s pretty basic stuff, but I thought I’d see what happened.
So, the first pass concluded there was no intelligent or coherent language about language out on the internet. (The closest thing was “im in ur dictionaries verbing ur nounz!” ROFL! Pwnage!)
So, for my second pass I tweaked some parameters and my stoopid spellchecker auto-corrected a typo of “lenguste” to “linguistics”. The results were a little more interesting: there still isn’t anything intelligent or coherent out there, but these phrases came back as being the most characteristic and distinctive elements of the language of linguistics on the internet:
- The only good Indo-European language is a dead Indo-European language.
- I am Wug, hear me roar!
- What happens in vagueness stays in vagueness.
- One hundred million Francophones can’t be wrong.
- This is not your daddy’s onomatopoeia!
- Ye Olde English Pure Vouelle
- The word to end all words.
- It’s all over except the moving of α.
- Will perform nasal-ingressive voiceless velar trills for food.
- Suffixes and the single morpheme.
- Zen and the art of metaphorical meaning.
- One swearword does not a vulgarity make.
- I, for one, welcome our new generative overlords.
- Liaisons, and triphthongs, and breathy voice, oh my!
- The good, the bad, and the underlying.
- Binding? We don’t need no stinking binding!
- Generative grammar considered harmful.
- A minimal pair is a terrible thing to waste.
- When the going gets tonguey, the tongue gets going.
- A high front vowel by any other name would sound as wee.
- The care and feeding of chiasmi.
- It’s a small colloquialism, and yet there are those who love it.
- Everything I need to know about the article, I learned from the free abstract.
- If it’s wrong to conjugate with you, then I don’t want to be right.
- All your morpheme are belong to us.
- Is that a dangling modifier I see before me?
- Optimality is the opiate of the Chomskyan masses.
- The decline and fall of the Romance Languages.
- Is that a gerund in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
- The breast thing since slips of the tongue.
- Will the real Universal Grammar please stand up?
- What’s the difference between a philologist and an appendix? One’s a useless relic left over from an earlier time, and the other is an internal organ.
- Good linguists describe; great linguists acquire near-native fluency.
- The mother of all buccals.
- Yes, Virginia, there is a small clause.
- There are only three things you need to know about word order: location, location, location!
- There is a fine line between elative and illative.
- Have generativity, will transform.
- What is this “Language” of which you speak?
- If Eskimos have 100 words for snow, then Geoff Pullum surely has written 100 books about it.
- The little English creole that could.
- In Soviet Russia, consonants palatalize you!
- The tones that raise together, stay together.
- Happiness is a well-formed pluperfect.
- I came, I saw, I concatenated.
- It’s the economy condition, stupid.
- Any sufficiently advanced tongue root is indistinguishable from magic.
- Dr. Strangword, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the SpecGram.
- Et tu, Broca?
- Morpheme. Bound Morpheme.
- The phoneme that can be spoken is not the true phoneme.
- If it’s two lips, this must be bilabial.
- Syllable Peak or Bust!
- im in ur dictionaries verbing ur nounz
- Gee, your hyperbole smells terrific!
- You got your inchoative in my Proto-Bantu!
- There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistical linguistics.
- I love a good creole. It’s got that new language smell.
- Today grammar, tomorrow the word!
- Reduplication is a dish best served twice.
- The suprasegmental never settles on the empty morpheme.
- Friends don’t let friends use derivational morphology drunk.
- Collective nouns for fun and profit.
- Ergativity is hard, let’s go shopping.
- Better labiovelarization through kymography.
- It is the relativizer that has left the building.
- You can take the language out of the culture, but you can’t take the culture out of the language.
- Hapax legomenon, we have a problem.
- Pinker is the new Bopp.
- Every time you mistranslate, God kills a kitten.
- I speak, therefore I am grammatical.
- Dude, where’s my circumflex?
- Oh my god! They trilled Kenny! You bastards!
- I like my women like I like my vowels: [+high] and [+round].
- Every time a linguist says “I don’t believe in laryngeals”, there is a Proto-Indo-Europeanist somewhere that falls down dead.
So, as a result of my attempts at automated fieldwork, I’ve found an a posteriori turn-key solution for step #2 above that anyone can implement in the comfort of their own home while the pounds melt away and the ladies flock to admire your imitation Rolex and worship your enlarged manhood. Just send $29.95 and your bank account routing codes to:
Fullah Enterprises Co., Inc., Ltd.
137 S. Pam Ave.
İstanbul Online University
[İ.O.U! Go Fighting Pawn Tickets!]